Moon rocks are otherworldly and illegal to own — and they’re also among the most valuable elements in the world. A single gram is worth about $5 million. Enter Thad Roberts, a 25-year-old NASA co-op who stole a safe of lunar samples from NASA and then, with his girlfriend-accomplice, did just what the title of Ben Mezrich’s highly readable new book, “Sex on the Moon” suggests. Mezrich, the best-selling author behind “Bringing Down the House,” and “The Accidental Billionaires” (from which the Oscar-winning “The Social Network” is adapted), uncovers how Roberts was both smart and dumb enough to carry out one of history’s most daring thefts.
How did you come upon Thad’s story?
I’ve become the go-to guy for interesting stories. Mutual friends of Thad who were fans of mine contacted me. I never heard of the heist. So I hopped on a plane and flew to Utah to meet Thad right after he spent seven and a half years in jail. He was one of the nicest, most charismatic guys I’ve ever met.
It seems like you had a lot more to work with in “Sex on the Moon” — FBI files, interviews with Thad, etc. — than your other nonfiction works.
Thousands of pages. … The first thing Thad says when he sits down with an undercover FBI agent
is: “If you’re wearing a wire, I’m screwed.” I mean, come on: That makes for a great book.
So many elements to the story are so over the top. Did anything surprise even you?
Even to this day, I don’t understand how Thad could be so brilliant in pulling it off, but then he just tried to sell the moon rocks on the Internet. He just wasn’t a criminal. A criminal would know better.